Governor Gary Herbert has declared May 7-13 to be “Public Service Recognition Week.” Here at the Utah State Archives and Records Service we wanted to honor the men and women who work diligently to assist Utah governmental agencies in the efficient management of their records, to preserve those records of enduring value, and to provide quality access to public information.
This week, we will have a number of blog posts highlighting our employees and their contributions to our institution’s mission.
We truly appreciate those that dedicate their lives to assisting our governmental agencies in the management and preservation of our history for the generations to come.
Often in this day and age the public feels, sometimes rightly so, that their information is too readily available online. To help combat that fear, the American Library Association has created Choose Privacy Week, an “annual, week-long event that promotes the importance of individual privacy rights and celebrates libraries and librarians’’ unique role in protecting privacy in the library and in society as a whole.”  While archivists are not often working directly in the libraries, nor are we librarians, we do understand the similar role we play in preserving archival information and providing access to that information to the public. We understand the importance of a user’s privacy. Our need to honor privacy while remaining transparent as we preserve governmental records can be a tricky balancing act. We have invited two member of our Transparency Team (Nova Dubovik, the State Records Committee Executive Secretary, and Rosemary Cundiff, the GRAMA Ombudsman, to help explain the laws that we follow when providing access to information here in our Research Center.
The Archivist’s Perspective
By Nova Dubovik and Rosemary Cundiff
The Utah State Division of Archives and Records Service (“Archives”) staff members go to great lengths to protect the privacy rights of citizens by preventing unauthorized access and balancing that with government transparency.
Alan Barnett, reference Archivist at Utah State Archives, expressed that “[m]aintaining both governmental transparency and individual privacy is key to preserving our democratic system.” He references the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA), which is Utah’s records access law, and remarked on “the need for a balance between these two demands.” Alan pointed out that, “the State Archives works to keep that balance between making government transparent to citizens, while protecting private information about individuals.”
GRAMA provides the guidelines to determine the proper classification of records. It is the basis for determining whether to restrict or not restrict access to a record based on the content of the information, and the context of the request. At the Archives, when a researcher requests material, to prevent the unintentional release of sensitive information, the staff reviews the holding classification and content. If necessary, the information is segregated and redacted before granting access. For the Archives a particularly relevant section of GRAMA is the section which states that restricted classification is not permanent, and that after 75 years a “records shall be presumed to be public.” (Utah Code Section 62G-2-310). This section of the GRAMA defines how privacy interests diminish over time. For example, a telephone number from a 50-year-old phone book would not have the same privacy concern as a current personal phone number.
Another interesting example of diminishing privacy over time is an Archives collection about the Castle Gate Relief Fund Committee. These records document the needs of families in the aftermath of the Castle Gate mining disaster, as well as amounts of relief funds provided to each family. When records relating to adults in this collection were requested in the past, they were restricted as private records, however, today they have become public records documenting Utah’s rich history. It is of note, that the records in this collection related to children will continue to remain private until the records are 100 years old to protect the children’s privacy.
As indicated by Alan, there is a balance between preserving individual privacy and government transparency and documenting our history. The Archives is quintessential in balancing all to promote a democratic system for future citizens.
Every year on May 1st, the Society of American Archivists focuses on how institutions can plan to preserve their collections in the event of an emergency. This year, the Utah State Archives and Records Service was able to participate in this nationwide campaign in a variety of ways.
On April 20, 2017, Archives Staff participated in Utah’s annual earthquake drill (Great Utah ShakeOut) and reevaluated our red “go bags.” During the drill, staff huddled under desks and tables until the “shaking” stopped. We then quickly and efficiently moved to our designated safe location until it was deemed safe to return to work. Staff were asked to determine the successes and failures of the drill to be discussed at a later time.
For our actual MayDay events this morning, staff gathered for a large re-appraisal project.
One of the core concepts of collection survival is to ensure that records are identified and maintained according to their appraised value. This allows for records to be destroyed or preserved in accordance with their approved retention schedules. As part of a larger cleanup and inventory project, a number of boxes were identified in our permanent repository that had been marked for destruction. Yet, some of the boxes appeared to have intrinsic historic value. These boxes needed to be reviewed and reappraised to determine if the records should be destroyed according to their retention schedules, or if the retention schedule should updated to allow the records to be incorporated into the permanent repository collection and maintained. As the old adage states, many hands make light work. In a few short hours we were able to correctly appraise all of the record series, many of which were slated for permanent preservation.
With the re-appraisal project finished, the staff gathered in the afternoon to discuss disaster preparedness and recovery. A video discussing the 2011 and 2016 earthquakes in New Zealand was introduced to open a discussion about planning for our response to such an event here in Utah. (The Wasatch Fault here in the state is an active fault that could cause serious damage).
The discussion also included a followup to our Great Utah ShakeOut drills and how we can improve our policies to better protect our staff and the records in our care.
As our preservationist, Alan Barnett, mentioned last week, preserving the records of Utah’s government for future generations is a core part of our job. A key component of that preservation is to ensure that the records will survive in the event of a disaster. Each year MayDay allows us to set aside some time to plan and prepare for the worst case scenario. This ensures that those future generations will have the records they need to understand our present and past.
This week has been designated as Preservation Week by the American Library Association. This designation is a chance to highlight the importance of preserving items worthy of passing on to future generations. These items are held in thousands of museums, libraries and archival institutions, as well as in many family collections.
Here at the State Archives it is a core part of our job to preserve the records of government in Utah for the future. While we work with a large and diverse collection of government records, the basic principles of preserving these historical records are the same as those for preserving the historic family records you may have. The key to preserving any historic records is recognizing the threats that may damage or destroy them, and taking steps to reduce the risk from those threats. The major threats to our historical records include water, heat, light, dirt, pests, and handling. Here are a few tips to help preserve your priceless family documents:
Gather all your historic family photos and documents together, organize them, and make an inventory. Many family records are lost simply because we don’t keep track of what we have.
Put your family records in protective enclosures. Acid free archival boxes and folders are ideal for this. These enclosures can provide protection from water, dirt, and light and keep things from getting scattered.
Store your records in a climate controlled space. Wide swings in temperature and humidity will damage materials over time. Don’t store records in a shed or in the attic where temperatures can reach extremes. Avoid storing items under water pipes and if you store them in the basement, keep them at least six inches off the floor, in case of flooding.
Don’t wear out your priceless family heirlooms with use. Make sure your hands are clean when you handle them. Wear cotton or nitrile gloves to handle photographs. Make copies of things for hanging on the wall or for regular use. Don’t paste originals in scrapbooks or albums. Keep the original pristine for future generations. If you want to save your grandmother’s cookbook, copy the information and quit using the original. Digitize items to distribute copies among the family. Put the original away where it won’t get handled to death.
If you are worried about your ability to properly care for your family records or don’t have someone to pass them on to who will care for them, consider donating them to a professional institution where they can be preserved and available for the entire extended family for years to come. There are a variety of institutions throughout Utah that can be repositories to preserve your historic records. The Utah Manuscripts Association provides a list of most of the major archives in Utah.
By taking steps to protect the records that tell the story of our families, we can insure that the family legacy we have collected will live on to tell that story to future generations.
A healthy democracy relies on an active and informed citizenry, which in turn depends on transparent government and open access to information. Today, this reality is under constant threat, whether from the fragile nature of digital data or the ongoing risk that information can be easily removed from the public domain. Threats like these demand a greater awareness and accountability from both engaged citizens and the institutions that exist to serve the public good.
Endangered Data Week is an effort to bring the concerns inherent to preserving and providing ongoing access to digital information to the forefront of the public consciousness. The Utah Division of Archives and Records Service (State Archives) is mandated to preserve and provide access to the permanent records of Utah government. Endangered Data Week provides us with a unique opportunity to explore how we currently work towards these goals, as well as provide an update on where this work will take this institution in the future.
The State Archives provides records management services to state and local governmental entities across Utah. This work helps insure that records are properly scheduled, and that data is either destroyed according to its retention schedule, or preserved as a permanent record of enduring value.
A primary function of the State Archives is to preserve and provide access to permanent government records through the Research Center. The State Archives has made an institutional commitment to developing systems and programming that allow us to preserve and provide access to digitally-born government data with the same confidence and surety that we have for paper records. The State Archives Digital Preservation Framework documents the high level goals and principles that the institutional Electronic Archives Program is founded on.
This work of preserving and promoting open government is supported by the State Archives administration of both the Open Records Portal and the Utah Public Notice Website. The Open Records Portal offers a dynamic web space that allows Utah citizens to make GRAMA requests and access government records online, while the Public Notice Website informs members of the general public of government activities by posting agendas and minutes from open public meetings online.
Helping secure open government and transparency through the preservation and access of government records is a central mission of the State Archives. Multiple institutional efforts are underway to build on the programs that help us support this important mission.
Currently, State Archives staff are engaged in building the Electronic Archives Program based on the fundamental principles outlined in the institution’s Digital Preservation Framework. This includes establishing the policies, procedures, and guidelines that govern the entirety of the program: from the moment digital government records are born to their eventual preservation in the State Archives. Another major piece of this effort is securing a digital preservation system that will allow for the ongoing preservation of electronic records, while protecting their authenticity and access. In this effort to help ensure the long-term viability of endangered data, the Electronic Archives Program is founded on a variety of international standards, including the Open Archival Information Systems (OAIS) reference model, the Trusted Digital Repositories standard, and the DCC Curation Lifecycle Model.
The continued growth and development of the Open Records Portal provides another opportunity for the State Archives to promote open government and insure that data, that might otherwise become endangered, is made open and accessible to citizens. Future development of the Open Records Portal will focus on enhancing the experience and capabilities of both portal users, as well as the assigned records officers for each governmental entity tasked with responding to GRAMA requests and making the public information from their institution openly available for online public inspection and use.
These are some of the major institutional efforts currently being undertaken at the State Archives to promote open government. By providing the tools and information for citizens to interact with their government, the State Archives is helping build a more active and engaged citizenry who will actively partner with us to achieve the goals of open government, transparency, and a prevention of the loss of endangered data.
As many probably already know, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the Great War, later known as World War I. Our country was forever changed by the events of the Great War. Today’s social, cultural, economic, and political landscapes can be attributed in part to those events. Over the next year and a half, the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service will be highlighting record series related to the war to help us understand this period of time and the role local communities played in the larger conflict.
Today, April 6th, is the official anniversary of Congress’ announcement to enter the war.
This was a drastic change from the President’s plea for neutrality, made less than three years earlier. At the beginning of the war, Wilson urged Americans to remain neutral “during these days that are to try men’s souls,”1 and, while war raged in Europe, public opinion in our country was fractured. There were groups that sympathized with our European Allies and supported our entrance into the war. Other groups had family or friends still living in the countries under the rule of the Central Powers and wanted the United States to remain neutral. The isolationists, a third group, also felt that this conflict was not our business or our problem and that our country should not be involved at all.
Over the next three years, a number of factors contributed to Wilson’s change of mind. But America’s road to war is a topic so broad that historians have been writing books about it for decades. A select set of titles are offered below. All of these factors culminated in Wilson’s address to a Joint Session of Congress on April 2, 1917. Wilson’s forceful words were a ringing endorsement of protecting not only our country, but others who had suffered for trying to remain neutral as well; he asserted that Germany’s current tactics were “a warfare against all mankind… a war against all nations.”2
[America’s previous stance of neutrality was] no longer reasonable or desirable where the peace of the world [was] involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom [lay] in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force…controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people.3
Yet Wilson’s call to action was also a call for caution and moderation. America’s “motive [would] not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, or human right, of which we are only a single champion.”4
Wilson’s words led to days of discussion throughout our country. From conversations around home fires to conversations in Congress, Americans were deeply invested in the outcome. Newspapers ran story after story about the ongoing war, U.S. responsibilities, and the danger of Germany and her allies. On April 6th, America officially entered the war as a result of votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Their resolution committed “all of the resources of of the country” to bringing “the conflict to a successful termination.”5
Wilson immediately signed the resolution and issued a War Proclamation later that same afternoon, which also identified “alien enemies” living within the United States, and outlined how they could expect to be treated.6
The events of April 6, 1917, still have an impact today. As we commemorate the various anniversaries, we hope to document and help facilitate better understanding of the role that Utahans played in the conflict and how the larger conflict affected Utah.
Upcoming posts will continue to highlight the images found in the 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, found in the State Archives’ permanent collection as we prepare it for online access through our Digital Archives.
You can learn more about World War I and the Centennial Commemoration events around the our country at the following links:
Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918, President Wilson’s Message Asking Congress to Declare that a State of War Exists with Germany, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918,Text or Resolution passed by Congress, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918, President Wilson Issues Proclamation that a State of War Exists, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
Here at the Archives, we have a number of people that are focused on facilitating transparency in government. We took the time to speak with a few of them to see what they do.
Rosemary Cundiff is our Government Records Ombudsman. Her days consist of helping the public understand how they can access current government records, helping government employees respond to Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) requests, and mediating between the two groups.
Since she began this new role about five years ago, Rosemary has consulted with
thousands of individuals. Regular questions include how to request records, how to appeal a denial, how to respond to GRAMA requests, how to classify records, and how to interpret the GRAMA law (see her Sunshine Week post on GRAMA’s legislative updates).
Another aspect of her position is to assist the State Records Committee by mediating between the public and the governmental entities during the appeals process. Rosemary contacts every group that brings an appeal before the State Records Committee to see if they would like to meet and explore possible compromises. Of those contacts, 123 have accepted and tried to work through the mediation process; 81 have reached a successful resolution.
When asked how she supports transparency in her work, Rosemary stated that “we provide forms, the Open Records Portal, and information for people,both government employees and the public, to use” to help them access public records.
She helps government employees understand their requirements as records officers, shares information about the Open Records Portal and how it can be used by both government employees and the general public, and helps the State Records Committee in their work to balance between an individual’s privacy and government transparency.
When asked about transparency, Nova stated that the public has the right to access government records and she works to make that process easier. “Transparency is important, it’s not just a pain…It is the history of our agencies, and how we handle the issues of government.”
Glen Fairclough, a former newspaperman, is the administrator for our Public Notice Website. He works with government agencies to help them provide access to public meeting information on the Public Notice
As part of his work, he monitors the law regarding who and what needs to be on the website. There are 3 subsections in the law identifying the different requirements for the different types of agencies. Glen helps all of these agencies to know what needs to be made available and how they can use the Public Notice Website.
When asked about how he supports transparency, Glen noted that the public has the right to access the government information provided at public meetings. The website provides information about upcoming and past meetings. It includes meeting agendas, topics for discussion, meeting locations and maps for directions. Government agencies can also post their meeting minutes or recordings. It is just one more way for our residents to access their government.
The Archives understands the importance of transparency and government accountability, and actively works to promote transparency and trust between government and its citizens. This week we have tried to highlight just a few ways in which we are working to create a relationship built on trust and transparency.
With millions of records in the Archives’ custody, this task can seem overwhelming at times. Our records processing staff, in concert with our wonderful volunteers, diligently work to describe records in
our custody and create research guides, indexes, inventories, finding aids, and other tools for accessing historical records. Beginning in June of 2006, the Archives also began providing access to records online. Today, there are over one million items available on the Utah State Digital Archives. Each record series that the team is able to process is another set of records easily accessible by the public.
As we process our collections and work to make the records readily available to our residents, the story of our government emerges. Our own Jim Kichas has written about our collection from Utah’s Department of Health regarding the 1950s sheep radiation study (Series 11571). These investigations into sheep deaths in Cedar City, Utah during the 50s were linked by the government to fallout from the Nevada Testing Site, and provide an in-depth look at problems suffered by and the government response to those that were “Downwind in Utah.”
The government record collections here at the Archives can also be used to help everyone understand their personal family history. Gina Strack works tirelessly to provide access to vital records which link us from generation to generation. Birth and death records that have become public records are made available online. Marriage records and Court records (such as divorce and adoption) that have been transferred to the Archives’ custody can be accessed through our Research Center. Using these government records we can understand just how we are connected to our ancestors who created our communities.
These are just two types of records that are preserved by the Archives to provide the foundation for Utah’s fact-based, historical government narrative. There are many more within the collection, and we work to ensure the public can access them. For, as Mizell Stewart III has written, “Access to meetings, minutes and records of our elected and appointed representatives is a key element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is not strictly for the benefit of the news media.” (Sunshine Week celebrates the public’s right to know, by Mizell Stewart III VP of New Operations, USA Today Network)
The Utah State Archives and Records Service in cooperation with the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board has grant funding available to non-profit cultural heritage organizations and local governments for historical records preservation projects.
Funding can be used to help Utah repositories preserve at-risk, historic records and to provide access to important collections. These grants are intended for short-term projects. This year we are pleased to offer grants of up to $7,500. All grants require a one-to-one in-kind and/or cash match. Grant work cannot begin until July 10, 2017 and all work must be completed by June 25, 2018. All grants must contain a public access component, such as posting digital images online or creating an on-line finding aid or index. Grant funding comes from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which is the granting arm of the National Archives.
Applications are required and must be received by April 5. We require each grant applicant to have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number before submitting an application. The grant guidelines and application are available at online. For further information, contact Janell Tuttle at firstname.lastname@example.org.